Joshua Goldstein

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Consumption

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199561216
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History


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In 2006, Cheung Yan became the first female to be dubbed the wealthiest person in the People's Republic of China. Formally known within her company, Nine Dragons Paper, as ‘the Chairlady’, she became a momentary darling of the financial press under titles such as ‘The Queen of Rubbish’, with an estimated worth of around US$10 billion in 2007. The meteoric rise and fall of Nine Dragons is emblematic of a post-Cold War globalization in which, if consumption is king, then trash is queen. This article sets the centrality of post-consumer waste in today's circuits of global trade in some historical perspective, focusing on modern China. It discusses waste before the nineteenth century, waste disposal and sanitation in the nineteenth century, and municipal solid waste management. The article also considers domestic and international economic forces that have conspired to make China the world's scrap magnet and magnate, including market reforms, rapid urbanization, consumerism, limited resources, and enormous industrial demand.

Keywords: China; waste; consumption; waste disposal; municipal solid waste; Cheung Yan; Nine Dragons Paper; sanitation; consumerism; demand

Article.  11147 words. 

Subjects: History

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